Only One Musician Was Happy That ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Used Their Music to Kill Zombies

Prince wouldn’t sign off on a weaponized ‘Batman’ soundtrack
Only One Musician Was Happy That ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Used Their Music to Kill Zombies

A big reason why Shaun of the Dead works so well as a zombie movie is because the characters’ terrible plans to survive the zombie apocalypse are so relatable. We can’t all be Brad Pitt with his muscles and helicopters, some of us would have to rely on whatever junk is lying around the house to save us. 

Before they decide to risk life and limb to travel to the local pub, Shaun and Ed’s first brilliant idea is to weaponize their vinyl collection by hurling various records at the walking corpses in their backyard, before eventually giving up and grabbing a couple of blunt objects instead.

Director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg recently spoke with NME about the film, which celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year, and revealed that not every musician they approached was totally cool with having their work being violently hurled at zombies’ brains. 

For starters, the scene was originally going to name-check David Bowie, with Shaun opting to keep classics like Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, while allowing Ed to toss the Labyrinth soundtrack. But they scrapped this idea because Wright heard secondhand that Bowie was “touchy about Labyrinth.” And nobody wanted to tick off David Bowie. Plus, “Magic Dance” rips.

As for the albums that did make the final cut, some of the covers were never shown because the filmmakers couldn’t get clearances from the artists. “You don’t see Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits, and you don’t see the Batman soundtrack,” Wright explained. 

The Batman joke was basically a Prince-centric reworking of the Bowie one (Shaun refuses to endanger Purple Rain or Sign O’ the Times), and as for Dire Straits, Pegg wrote a “lovely letter” to frontman Mark Knopfler, in which he tried to assure the musician that throwing his record at a zombie was “actually a compliment.” But it wasn’t. “We both thought it was shit,” Pegg admitted. 

Pegg also has an unpleasant personal connection to Brothers in Arms. “I was given that album as a kid at Christmas,” he told British GQ. But, embarrassingly, he had just informed the people who bought the gift that he wasn’t a fan of Dire Straits because “they’re boring.”

The only musician who actually gave the movie permission to use their image on screen was Sade, whose bestselling album Diamond Life is unsuccessfully hurled at two zombies. “The one artist who was okay with her album getting trashed and gave us the clearance, was Sade. So we think Sade is the coolest,” Wright divulged.

Pegg later met Sade while visiting New York, bumping into the singer in a “really quiet” elevator. “It was just me and her in the elevator and I went, ‘Thanks for letting me throw your record at a zombie.’ She said: ‘You’re welcome.’ It was a good icebreaker,’” Pegg recalled. 

To be fair, Sade’s album isn’t thrown at the zombies because Shaun thinks it’s bad, but rather, because it belongs to his estranged girlfriend Liz. And it’s always therapeutic to vandalize an ex’s property, even when it’s not in the service of taking out flesh-eating ghouls.

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